Some Moments

There are some moments that you know are going to change everything, forever.

(Actually, I rather think that everything changes everything else forever, but if we knew that, if we felt it in our very bones, we’d never do anything or go anywhere; because sometimes we don’t want change, so who would go grab their morning coffee at the local if they knew it was going to change everything? And yet every choice changes our path, even if just a little, even if it’s in ways we can’t fathom or imagine).

What I’m saying is…sometimes there are moments you know, in your very marrow, that are going to change everything. Forever. In ways you can’t see or imagine or comprehend or predict. As if you had been stood on a railway turntable, turning round and round, seeing all the choices, and then — click — you slotted yourself into place. You chose the new path and in that moment, that infinitesimal, fleeting moment between when your mind knows it has decided and when you act upon the decision, the whole universe expands with the unimaginable consequences of your decision and your heart swells with all the fear and delicious joy and apprehension of knowing that you have no idea how much your life is about to change because you chose one path over the other. And sometimes, in a heartbeat, you know you can never go back. The die are cast, the three sisters have snipped the thread and you have shifted the whole course of your life for better, or for worse.

That moment. That moment.

I just had one of those moments. With a few clicks of the mouse, I accepted an offer to attend a new university to commence a new degree. Everything has changed. I have stopped my turntable and my feet point in one direction. I have no idea what new experiences are coming my way. I have no idea where this new path will take me or whose path I have set myself up to cross. I have no idea what joy and what grief I have positioned myself to meet. All I know is that I have changed all the rest of my life tonight.

Some moments change everything. I’m crossing my fingers for something spectacular.

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All this is for you.

It’s been a rough few years. I feel worn & torn, exhausted by dealing with blow after blow.

I think of myself as an optimistic, happy person. And yet the past few years have worn at me, like the constant flow of water that wears down a rock. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve believed in what I was doing or where I was going, and there have been so many loads to carry. I feel more lost than ever (and for me, that’s saying something), I am confused, I am weary. Yet here I am, still carrying around the notion that I really am an optimistic person.

Somewhere, maybe, there’s a path with my name on it. I’m setting out, again (returning to school–whew!). I’m not sure it’s the right decision. It’s a big investment of time and money. I don’t know that it’s right, but I’m going to try. I have to try something. When you’re growing up, and you get lost…well, you remember your parent’s advice, right? “If you get lost, just stand still…and I’ll come and find you”. But I’m not a child anymore, and what I want from life isn’t coming to find me. There is no one who is going to find me and set me on the right path. It’s my turn now. It’s my turn to explore. I’m lost, but I know that standing still isn’t going to help me find my way.

As I write I can tell that (since I haven’t written in a long time) there are so many thoughts I’d like to share. About how now is not then, even though it sure feels that way. About how I feel about going to do undergraduate work…8 years after I first went to university. About the pain of feeling stuck and like I’ve been standing still. About grief and loss. About vulnerability.

It has been a rough few years. I feel worn & torn…and yet here I stand, with more vulnerability and gratitude than ever before. There is so much to experience. So much wonder. I’m just looking for a way to it. So let me leave you with an image I stumbled across today.

Image

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Loneliness

I haven’t written in a long, long time. Neither here, nor anywhere else.

I was too scared. I didn’t want to look into the dark places. I didn’t want to search through the shadows.

I’ve come back tonight because I need somewhere that am I not alone. Here, at least, I can find myself.

I have always found life to be a little bit lonely. In some ways this is self-inflicted: I have never been good at reaching out when I need support. For many years, my default position when I was threatened was to shut down, close off, wall up. If I didn’t let anyone in, they couldn’t see the damage. They couldn’t cause more damage.

The flaw with this logic is that it also left me utterly alone. No one could see the damage, but they couldn’t help heal it, either. That is a high price to pay. That is too high of a price to pay.

So yesterday, when I found myself in pieces, crying on the hallway floor, I picked up the phone and asked for support. The support came. It came again when I wrote to more friends. These are new behaviours for me; new patterns. It is better.

But this place is still so, so lonely. I think that these places, where our hearts break…I think they will always be lonely, no matter how much love and support we have surrounding us. I think that the experiences that shatter us create loneliness, because no one else can be with you in that pain, and no matter how much support you are receiving, in the moments that we hurt the most, we are alone.

At night, when we are trying to sleep but cannot find rest because our lives have been split apart, we are alone. In the mornings when we are in the shower and we end up mixing our tears with the water, we are alone. When we are travelling or grocery shopping or folding laundry or sitting in a bathroom stall, we are alone. We hear every thought that flits through our mind, alone.

Alone.

We are such social creatures. We need love and support and affection. We need to feel that we experience life with others. We need to share what we feel. We are reaching out across the divide, but really…I think we are just like Adam and God: always, always reaching. Always just inches, moments, heartbeats apart.

The deepest pain we walk through alone.

I feel alone. I have lost so much. There is a long, cold, difficult path ahead of me and I am daunted from knowing that I will be walking it all alone. No one is here with me now. And even if there were…there is no one inside of me to help with how it hurts, to listen to my thoughts and feel my broken heart and to really know who, and how I am right now.

Except for me. And I find there’s not much else I can do right now except to cry, and write. For myself.

Michelangelo's Creation of Adam

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Thoughts for Thursdays – Einstein

Do you do this? Are you a fish that judges yourself on your ability to climb?

I think it’s common. We look around us at the myriad of talents that each individual possesses. We see the bright sparks of genius and think, ‘How come I’m not like that?

Maybe you remember it from your school days. Someone in a maths class always gets the concepts and answers right away, while you struggle to grasp seemingly alien concepts. Or your English teacher shares a passage written by a friend that captures beautifully and elegantly the poignant message of the novel you just read. Or you are blown past on the basketball court by the captain who effortlessly cuts to the basket.

Perhaps you notice it in your peers, whose talents seem to align seamlessly with what the world tells you you ought to be doing. In the student getting her PhD. In the friend at medical school. In the artist showing her photographs. In the student finishing his MBA.

The problem is, if you look too long and too hard at the bright lights of talent around you in individuals so different to you and with a myriad of their own gifts, you forget to look at yourself as who you are, with your own sparks of genius. You search inside of you for strengths that were never meant to be yours, and in doing so miss the strengths that are already your own.

You blame yourself for never being able to fly, when in fact, if you turned away from the sky and looked instead at yourself in the ocean, you would see that you are the most graceful swimmer the world has ever seen.

After all, do you think Michael Phelps looks at Serena Williams and thinks, ‘I’m a terrible athlete because I’ll never be able to serve a tennis ball like her’?

Your contribution to the world, your talents, your gifts, your sparks of genius are all your own. Imagine what you could create if you believed in those gifts.

So perhaps on another afternoon when you find yourself on the losing side of a game of comparison, you can gently remind yourself that Einstein, who could have revelled in his superiority over others in his field, chose instead to remind the world that we all have our own strengths.

 

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WWW – Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany…and an embarrassing moment

The first place I ever lived away from home was Munich, Germany. I was 17 when I moved there and a few weeks after my arrival Munich celebrated its annual Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest is the world’s largest fair and all over the world different cities model their own Oktoberfest after Munich’s.

During the festival only beer brewed within the city borders of the City of Munich is allowed to be served, and it comes in huge, heavy glasses. Each glass is filled with one whole litre of beer.

At the time, I was very, very new to the world of alcohol consumption. Up to that point in my life I’d never drank beer and I’d probably not even consumed the total equivalent of a bottle of wine over my 17 years. So I wasn’t yet acquainted with the personal and intimate knowledge of how other factors can influence your body’s reaction to drinking. Factors such as hydration, food consumption, rate of consumption, body mass, tolerance levels, etc. etc. But oh boy, did I learn that day…

I went to Oktoberfest with the parents of family with whom I was living. They happened to be British, and they happened to have a whole load of British mates over for the festival. We headed out in the hot, late September sunshine to join in with the crowds of merrymakers from all across Europe and the world. We rode the rides, wandered round the stalls, and generally enjoyed the atmosphere. It was hot. It was busy.

Mistake One: I hadn’t eaten much all day when we headed into the first beer tent to cool down with a beer.

Mistake Two: I’d been thirsty, but I hadn’t drank much all day.

We sat down at one of the long wooden tables and ordered. I was imagining…you know, a beer. A bottle of beer. Or maybe a pint. Certainly not the huge, heavy litre I and all the British lads around me were served. Still being very young and stupid enough to feel like I had to ‘prove’ something, I was determined to drink at the same as the men. The six foot, solidly built, had-been-drinking-from-mid-teens 30 year old men.

That was Mistake Three.

So I had my beer. And guess what? I didn’t finish last! And guess what else? I felt fine! 

I felt fine while strolling around afterwards, I felt fine when I dropped my paper-ticket to the roller coaster ride because I absently just…stopped holding it…and it blew off in the wind, I felt fine when we rocked back into another beer tent for dinner.

Dinner of half a chicken and…another litre of beer.

I felt fine dancing on the table and watching the Italians beside us get naked and singing Beatles’ songs along with the brass bound and shouting out ‘Ein Maas!’ for another litre of beer.

 

I felt fine drinking that beer at the same rate as all the Brits so that when it was time for the third round…I was ready for my third litre of beer. You know, for my dehydrated, exhausted, low-tolerance, dancing, singing, having-a-fabulous-time-and-not-realizing-how-incredibly-intoxicated-I-was-getting body.

Mistake Four, clearly.

I felt fine when we eventually finished in the beer tent and headed out for more rides. More importantly, I felt fine when we got on the big ferris wheel into a little swaying cabin with a group of young men and we happily started chatting and introducing ourselves and they asked where I was from.

‘Canada! I’m from Canada!’ I recall shouting over all the other shouting taking place between us and our inebriated new friends. ‘Toronto!’.

‘Oh yes!’ one replied, ‘We love Canada!’

‘And you?’ I asked.

‘Vienna!’ they shouted back.

‘Oh!’ I shouted. ‘I’ve always wanted to go to Italy!’

Hah.

Mistake Five: forgetting that alcohol impairs…well, pretty much everything, and making your new friends think you’re the idiot who really doesn’t know the difference between Vienna, Austria, and Venice, Italy.

But all’s well that ends well and they had their share of amusement laughing at the ridiculous Canadian girl who didn’t know her geography, and I was too drunk to be embarrassed for long.

So, I felt fine as we went home (although I don’t remember much after the ferris wheel ride), and went straight to bed.

Mistake Six: should have had water before bed. Although I’m fairly sure that even if I’d had 6 litres then it wouldn’t have prepared me for…

Feeling fine right up until the moment I found myself crawling on the floor to the bathroom in order to take my first ever shift worshipping the porcelain goddess. Which was quickly followed by a second, and third, and fourth, and fifth shift (after which I lost count) as I repeated the pattern of crawling to bed and back to the toilet over and over again that day.

And then I didn’t feel fine for a long, long, long time afterwards.

And for an even longer time, I couldn’t stomach even the smell of beer without wanting to vomit.

But all’s well now and should I ever have the fortune of returning to Oktoberfest, I’ll know not to repeat any of my naive mistakes.

Oktoberfest, Munich, Bavaria, Germany

And the best part? I’ve started drinking beer again.

 


 

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Swiftly: Hey Normal Day

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Thoughts for Thursdays – A Way Marker, a Journey (Wendell Berry)

Tonight marks an ending for me, and a beginning. After more than a year, I am heading back to…

Well, I’m not sure exactly what I should be calling it. Tomorrow is the first day of training for the volunteer placement I’m doing at with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Is it work? Is it normality? The phrase ‘real life’ pops into my head, but life has definitely been real–often starkly so–over the past year, so that can’t be right. After the training follows the actual volunteer placement, and immediately following that a month working with at-risk girls up North.

I’m going to have the kind of anchor that I think we all cling to in a way. You know, the one that allows you to respond to the question ‘so, what do you do?’ with an answer that others are accustomed to hearing: ‘I’m volunteering at/working at…’. This is much easier to say than ‘I am a spine-healing warrior forging a path through pain and healing, discovering whole new worlds inside of myself and flourishing my potential through exploration and experimentation, while standing up to the trials of spending so much time with myself and feeling left out, left behind, and overwhelmed while the world turns and I sit still, awaiting the moment when I can spring forward again in a happy, healthy body, into new adventures and over new horizons’, although this is, and will probably remain, far closer to the truth.

But though the journey here has been long, often dark, often confusing, filled with some very low valleys and some very bright insights, I do not feel I have arrived at a destination tonight, so much as I am laying down a way-marker. I am here to mark a change, an emergence from my cocoon of healing into whatever the next step holds.

I’m terrified. What if my back can’t handle it? What if it causes me intense pain? What if my body isn’t ready for this emergence that my heart and head have been screaming, crying, trying for? What if I have to bow out from something I’m so excited for? What if, and this is the scariest of all…what if while I’m doing something while volunteering and I re-injure myself to the point where I was this time last year…or worse?

I know these fears. They are concerned for me. Of course they are here with me tonight. I have spent 13 months in new territories of physical agony I had not known before, and with them came all sorts of emotional agonies too. I have come to know myself and my body intimately, although there is still more unknown than known. I have been living in a place so very different to any I have seen before and, quite frankly, totally different to any place any of my loved ones have ever inhabited: this has made it lonely. The fear comes with the change out of this place, and sidles along beside every expectation I hold about this change and every hope for the future.

I am stepping off what has felt like a very still riverbank into the the fast-flowing pace of life that I haven’t felt in a very long time.

I hold a tender pride for myself tonight, for reaching this moment, for simply surviving and emerging. I cradle carefully the tiny glimmer of hope that wishes so fervently that this way-marker is taking me out of this particular journey and onto another.

So a little thought, a little gem, a little gift for you tonight while I face this new adventure: a quote that perhaps, more than anything I’ve yet written about, embodies what this particular journey has felt like for me, and might offer you something to ponder:

It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.
– Wendell Berry

And, and oh, oh how I never imagined this moment: I am overwhelmingly, over-spillingly full of gratitude for everything that I have learned since embarking unwillingly, screaming and kicking and cursing and crying, onto this particular journey. Thank you, thank you, thank you, a million times…thank you.

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